Emo-centric writer at heart.

My friends laugh cause I take up my day, listening to “emo-songs” and posting my findings on FaceBook. It helps my writing. Stephen King listens to heavy metal when he writes and Mitch Albom plays in a band. Writers express themselves through their writings but draw strength and inspiration from the things they love. For me, it’s emotional Indonesian or Korean love songs. I love the music videos that accompany these songs cause it tells the story and they are great sources for stories.

What these songs do is generate the “What if?” questions and these questions spark the quest for an answer and the telling of a story. Stories and plots can be driven by the quest for an answer and I see this pattern in Paulo Coelho’s books.

So it could be horror movies, baking cakes, eating burgers by the roadside or just listening to big-band music. If it’s inspires you to write the stories you enjoy writing, so be it. Whatever that inspires you to write use it to your advantage and make it your strength.

Happy writing!

Train Man..sweet story

I just finished reading a book called Train Man. I bought it some time last year and only now I have gotten round to reading it and boy, did I miss something. It is a sweet, sweet book. It is a story that would make you smile and realize fairy tales do happen in the real world.

There is an online version of the story available here: http://www.rinji.tv/densha/

Densha Otoko, or ‘Train Man’ is the name of a very popular book published in Japan in early 2005, which tells the true story of a nerdy guy who falls in love with a girl who he saved from a drunk on a train. This entire story takes place on a Japanese bulletin board system called 2ch, or ‘ni-channel’, particularly in a thread called ‘Men Being Shot from Behind’, where single men get together and gripe about being single.

In typical Japanese fashion, after the tremendous success of the book, both a movie version and a TV drama series were released. ‘Densha Otoko’ is really the “it” book of 2005 for Japan. It’s a really great story and I hope that this translation helps you enjoy it, too.

I’ve heard of writers publishing their blog entries in the form of books but this is the first time I’ve come across a book that is comprise of forum postings. The replies from the other netizens are funny, ridiculous yet honest. It’s not scripted. Not plotted. Train Man is a simple story but what makes it special is the sense of community. You become part of the group, rooting for Train Man as he pursues his lady, Hermes. You are drawn into their discussions and at times you would disagree with them yet you see the fun side of things.

Give it a try and you’ll see why I am still smiling when I think of the book.

Depression and this Writer

I never thought I would fall into this state of mind but it happened. I was depressed and this was the reason I had turned cold towards my writing. I did not know it was depression and instead blamed other factors such as work, commitments and people as the reason to why I couldn’t sit down long enough to write a sentence. Yes, within the period of depressive foggy-ness, I did managed to churn out several short stories (most appearing on this blog) but my main project merely sat on the sideline.

Depression hits for no reason and your mind just fogs over and your motivation to do the things you love just evaporates, leaving you with this perpetual sense of emptiness. In the end, you feel as if you are merely a shell and life has ebbed it’s way to the twilight zone. Nothing seems right, you become sensitive and needy. Needy for attention or someone to understand but you full well know no-one can fully understand the state of mind of a depressive person. My mind and heart were locked in a bind of negativity. Nothing seemed positive and optimism became a curse word.

There were evenings I spent walking in my backyard, devoid of thoughts and merely walking. I viewed things with an emptiness, a detachment from what was real or fantasy. In this state, plants looked alive and the world just seemed a shade of gray. It was bad.

Yet, I knew all this and I am glad I had friends I could just talk to. People I could open up to and vent. And I also had my writing. I realized the most passionate of my writings were done when I was in this state of clawing myself out of my emotional black-hole. The stories were real and the emotions raw. Sometimes our very weakness is the source of our greatest strength. Our insanity is the root of our creativity, the source of the logic for which we write about and our readers get transported to.

In my depression, I wrote about the need for love, the strength of hope and the desperation of one who has reached their end. Maybe it’s good for me to walk in that dark alley called depression, if only to gain the stories but not to dwell in it.

Am I out of my depression? I don’t know because its a part of me, yet I know I can keep it in check and continue to write with passion due to it.

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The One skill writers must have besides writing itself

I am often asked how I come about knowing so much. I never confess to having photographic memory (though I wish I did) neither do I see myself as a genius (I love my hair too much) but what I do have is a wild imagination that seemingly latches on to whatever new information pumped into my cerebral.

Besides writing itself, the other important skill, if not the only important skill is The Mastery of One’s Imagination.

Sherlock Holmes said, “You see but do not observe“. Aptly spoken and it is a phrase that writers should constantly hum as mantra. As writers, the blank page is our canvas and words our paint. We draw imagery, which takes life in the minds of the readers. Such imagery needs to live first and foremost within our writer’s minds. We need to see before it can be seen.

Yes, we all can imagine. As children we played with our imagination, we had dinosaurs running in our backyard, aliens living under our beds, the boogie-man in our closet and suspicious looking people as out imaginary friends. But somewhere along the line we lose this natural tendency to imagine our world. Replaced instead with in the face common-sense or logic thinking. Only a few have learnt to harness and tap the power of imagination. These are the Jedi master’s of their imagination and they are our icons of fantasy and lore example Stephen Spielberg, Stephen King, Johnny Depp; to name a few.

For a writer to excel, he too needs to be a Jedi of his own imagination. He must allow his characters to run free in his minds, he must observe their interactions and listen to what they are saying. The writer is the loyal scribe to the happenings of a reality that lives in his mind, which only he can see and chronicle. Eventually, the happenings of this world would be reported to the world populated by readers; curious to know the whats and the ifs.

For my second book set in pre-war Malaya, I have to rely heavily on my imagination and from watching period movies. There is just not enough research material for the period before Malaysia received her independence. The little that I have come across, does not paint a big enough picture for me to describe. So much of that world, I had to build in my mind and I had to rely a lot on flashbacks by my main characters in order to tell their story. Initial readings by friends tell me that they are comfortable with the flashbacks and the fact I am telling two stories in one. The events of the pre-war story affects the present story. So there is a link between events in the lives of my pre-war characters on the lives of those in the present day. Interesting to read but a horror to write. So I have taken large liberties to fill in the blanks with Constructive Imagination.

Constructive Imagination is not wild imagination but rather inferring and constructing reality based on the little information you have. You may have a shred of information but through a process of deduction you can safely build a picture. Criminal Profilers do a lot of inference work based on evidence at the crime scene. They build a good enough picture for everyone to see, which leads to the capture of the suspect. The same can be said in writing. Build a good enough picture and your reader can see.

Be the master of your imagination and study it well and you will realize that it opens up your writing. Plots seemingly fall out of the sky and your characters take on lives of their own. Link your imagination to information you gleamed from reading and see your stories take on a credible tone.

Before I forget, reading is the fuel for imagination. So read a LOT. It doesn’t have to be a novel, it could be the ingredients from your box of cereals, read, read, read. As you pump your imagination with information, create links between them and watch the stories come alive.

So there you have it; the other skill writers must have, besides writing, is a mastery of one’s own imagination.

Cheers!

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